Democratic candidate for Florida House District 73 James T. Golden has an uphill climb on Nov. 8 in what has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, but Golden likes his chances. He hopes to swing independent voters to his side on Nov. 8.
“Whether I win or not, I absolutely believe in the bottom of my heart that I should win,” Golden said. “As a father, stepfather and grandfather, I am more mindful of the inequities that exist in our society and the sexism that affects the difference in wages, the way we try to inhibit women and the way we are so cavalier about our approach to women.”
Golden said, “As a black man, I have experienced this awakening, the systematic discrimination, because I have witnessed it all of my life. I should win with respect to my enlightenment that has not manifested itself in my opponent, who says he is proud to stand with Donald Trump.”
Golden enters the general election after being unopposed in the Aug. 30 primaries. Republican candidate Joe Gruters narrowly defeated Steve Vernon in the primary by about 400 votes. Golden’s statement that Gruters stands with the Republican presidential nominee is something Gruters is proud of, as Trump’s Florida campaign chairman.
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“It’s not a problem for me to be tied to Donald Trump,” said Gruters. “I fully embrace him as our nominee. There’s no wiggle room, zero daylight between Donald Trump and myself, and I am obviously doing everything I can to move his agenda forward.”
Gruters said while the district is heavily Republican, he’s not taking the general election lightly.
“You never know what can happen in an election,” he said. “We are making sure we turn out the voters, and I’m grateful for the job the Republican Party of Manatee County is doing to turn out the vote, and our campaign is trying to supplement that effort.”
The two candidates have run a clean campaign against one another, but they have their political differences. Golden said he remains committed to three primary issues.
As a black man, I have experienced this awakening, the systematic discrimination, because I have witnessed it all of my life.
James T. Golden, Democratic candidate for State House District 73
“We spend way too much money marketing candidates,” he said. “It becomes more a form of entertainment than enlightenment. Secondly, we use our political leadership to promote a political agenda as opposed to being most reflective of the collective interest of everyone and we become more divisive and more and more partisan.”
Golden said Republican positions on gun ownership are “totally unacceptable,” while attacking Trump’s “pervasive” rise to power and Rep. Greg Stuebe’s positions on gunes. Stuebe is vacating the District 73 seat to run for a seat in the Florida Senate.
There’s no wiggle room, zero daylight between Donald Trump and myself and I am obviously doing everything I can to move his agenda forward.
Joe Gruters, Republican candidate for State House District 73
The candidates agree that education is a pressing matter for the state and support standardized testing. They separate themselves when it comes to Common Core, which Gruters would like to end, giving more control back to local school districts while also giving school choices back to parents.
Both also support the passage of the medical marijuana measure on the Nov. 8 ballot, but are polar opposite on Medicaid expansion. Golden supports it while Gruters said the Medicaid system is rife with “fraud and abuse,” noting the federal subsidies would end in a couple of years putting the state on the hook for $500 million annually.
Besides serving as Trump’s Florida campaign chair, Gruters serves as vice chair of the Florida Republican Party and is the chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota. Golden, a former Bradenton City Council member, ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, winning his primary, but losing heartily to Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, who collected 69 percent of the vote.
Name: Joe Gruters
Professional experience: Certified public accountant
Election experience: First time candidate, but has worked on several Republican campaigns.
Family: Married for eight years, three children ages 4, 2 and 1.
Name: James T. Golden
Professional experience: Attorney, Methodist pastor
Election experience: Ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. Won his primary, but lost in the general election.
Family: Married for 18 years with a blended family of five children.